Miller School of Albemarle
Opening Address and Roll Call 2018-2019
Good morning, everyone!
I’m Dr. Nabi, the Director of Academics here at Miller School. I’d like to extend a hearty welcome to so many of you, and to so many more, a welcome back.
Well, we’ve begun. How’s it going so far? Two class periods down, 904 to go!
All right, so maybe it’s a little early for that joke. But it does make you think: how do we measure what we’re doing here? How do we count it? how do we quantify our progress?
A few years back, there was a Broadway musical called Rent, and there was one song from it that asked a similar question, how do you measure a year of life?
One answer, according to the song, is “525,600 minutes.”
That lyric got stuck in my head the other day, and so I was walking around the house singing it. My 8-year-old had the misfortune of hearing this -- me going on about “525,600 minutes” -- and so he asked, “what’s that?” “That’s how many minutes are in a year,” I told him. And then, being the incurable teacher-dad that I am, I turned it into a pop quiz for him. “So, if there are about half a million minutes in a year, how many minutes old are you?”
He thinks about it a few seconds, and then I see his face just light up with the answer: “I’m 4 million minutes old!” And he starts dying laughing. And I think we all understand why. Every person in here remembers being a single-digit age. That tiny number seemed so insignificant that we would do anything to make it seem larger than it was, like adding on a fraction (I’m 7 and a half; I’m 9 and three-quarters).
4 million minutes, though… that’s not insignificant. That’s something! Do the math for yourself real quick, and see how it makes you feel. For me, personally, when I ponder the fact that I’m 14 million minutes old <ahem>, it seems like nothing short of an eternity.
So, what do we do with all this time on our hands? Why on earth would I stand up here on the first day of a loooong school year, and make it feel even longer by calculating how many millions of minutes remain?
Well, I want to suggest that, if you’re counting down the minutes, then you’re thinking about it all wrong. If you’re counting down a 50-minute class period, or if you’re counting down the 31 days until our first long weekend, counting down 8 months to graduation … I want to encourage you to change your frame of mind. You shouldn’t be counting down, you should be counting up.